Week 1 Focus: Primary Language Arts
Home-school connections have been more important than ever this year because of the pandemic. It has also created some new and sometimes overwhelming situations for teachers, kids, and families as they have tried to navigate this new way of learning. For the next few weeks, I will be focusing on different subjects and providing teaching tips for school and home to support kids and parents.
This week the focus is primary language arts. I will be providing teaching tips, activities and games to connect school instruction with real life experiences, and also some reasons that it is important to have this connection between school and home.
Language activities start at home
Being able to communicate is important. This communication has many elements that are all included in language arts. Language arts includes reading, writing, oral communication, and language development. It is not just something that is taught and practiced at school.
Children get their first exposure as babies and those that have a rich exposure to language when they are young have an advantage when they arrive at school. Family members are the first teachers of language arts. They introduce kids to oral communication, stories, and sometimes the start of written language. At school, teachers work with these beginning skills and help kids develop them.
Connecting school and home with real life activities
At school, children are introduced to the mechanics of language. They learn to recognize letters, use phonics to decode words, make sense of written language, start writing ideas down, do oral presentations, and develop a deeper understanding of these ways of communication.
If they are able to connect these skills with real life activities at home their learning experiences will be enriched. There will be added benefits of quality family time and involvement.
Activities and games to reinforce language skills
Games and activities are great ways to engage kids and help develop their skills. They have so much fun doing the activities, they don't realize that they are practicing the skills. Here are some suggestions that might be fun to try. (Some of these are products that I created. They are linked so you can check them out.)
Phonics and Vocabulary Activities
- sight word games
- Boggle Jr.
- Scrabble Jr.
- Soundo games
- Word searches
- Crossword puzzles
- Vocabulary Mandalas
- computer activities
- Reading aloud/story time
- Reader's theater
- Re-enacting stories (example: Stone Soup)
- Novel studies (example: Horrible Harry series)
- Book review
- poetry using nursery rhymes or songs (example: Orchestrating Writing Poetry)
- 5 senses writing
- using scaffolds
- Mad Libs
- Silly sentences (parts of speech)
- keeping a journal or diary
Oral Communication Activities
- retelling stories
- reading aloud and changing voices for different characters
- reader's theater
- listening to audiobooks
Teachers are willing to help support families as they provide everyday enrichment for the skills and concepts presented at school. It is important to remember that they may also have children at home that need that support and time, so we need to remember not to overwhelm them either. As teachers and families develop a connection, everyone will get through these challenging times.
Remember: we are all cheerleaders for the kids. We want what is best for them and as we work together, they will succeed.
I hope these tips are helpful as you navigate through the next few months. Next week I will be focusing on Math tips and activities.
Tips For Teaching Sight Words
Sight words are important for developing reading fluency. Using sight word games and activities will help engage children in learning them. The English language is complex and many words are not phonetic and need to be learned by sight. Other words are phonetic and can be decoded, but fluency and comprehension will be affected if too many words need to be decoded. Being able to recognize high frequency words by sight will improve fluency and comprehension.
It is important to make sure that the children are ready for learning sight words before starting. They need to know their alphabet letters well. Phonics should be taught at the same time so that they have the phonemic awareness necessary to decode when needed.
Tips For Introducing and Practicing Sight Words
Introduce only a few words at a time and do several activities and games to reinforce them before adding in more words. Review words that are already known before introducing new words. It is important to keep revisiting these words as you add new ones so they don't get forgotten.
Children will progress at different speeds, so they need to have some individualized instruction to make good progress. Small group activities can be done, but only as the kids are ready for them.
Doing activities during guided reading can also help. Usually the kids are of similar ability and they would benefit from some directed teaching of the sight words.
Tactile activities can help kinesthetic learners. Try using playdoh or wix sticks, tracing letters in sand, or moving around letters on a magnetic board. The goal is to practice the words in as many ways as possible to imprint them into memory.
Another great tool is a sight word ladder. It is a folder with pockets that hold sight words. the goal is to move the cards up the ladder as the words are mastered. The basic sight words are divided into groups and assigned colours. When all the cards of one colour are mastered, the student moves on to the next colour.
Sight Word Games And Activities
Once they have mastered several sight words, it is time to add in some more games and activities. Memory games, bingo, letter scrambles, word searches, puzzles, etc.
I have created several sets of themed sight word cards and some bingo cards as well as sight word practice activities for 220 high frequency sight words and 95 common nouns. You can check them out by visiting the Sight Words Category in my store.
Here is a sampler activity to try.
I hope these tips are helpful. I would love to hear what you use to help kids learn their sight words.
What is Figurative Language?
Have you ever been told to "get your head out of the clouds"? How about "hold your horses"? Can you just imagine what a person who is new to the English language must be thinking when they hear these expressions? I really didn't think too much about it until I had a student in my class who was a very literal thinker. I had no idea just how many different times during the day we used figurative language in the classroom. We are so accustomed to it, that we don't even realize that we are using it. There are several types of figurative language. Today I am going to focus on idioms and some fun figurative language activities for kids.
What is an idiom?
According to the dictionary, an idiom is an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own.
For example: when we say that someone has "ants in their pants" we don't really mean that they have ants crawling around in their pants. Instead, we are referring to them being wiggly and having trouble sitting still.
Here are a few other common idioms:
full of beans sick as a dog a dime a dozen back to the drawing board
once in a blue moon spill the beans down to the wire in hot water play it by ear raining cats and dogs in a pickle
There are many more, but I think you get the idea.
My daughter-in-law is Korean, and when she moved to Canada, she was often confused by the expressions we used. She would ask me what I meant when I said something that didn't fit with what the words said. This made me more aware of what I was saying. She has been here for six years now, so she is comfortable with the way we talk and often uses figurative language herself.
Back to the student I had who was a literal thinker. I introduced him and my class to the Amelia Bedelia books. The author, Peggy Parish, had a wonderful way of helping us understand how much we use expressions when speaking. The character Amelia Bedelia did everything as literally said which led to some very comical situations. The children loved the way she reacted and they found it amusing to see how she would behave in each situation. My literal student began to understand that sometimes when we say something, it might have a different meaning than the words used.
Fun Figurative Language Activities Using Idioms
Here are some activities that worked well with my students. You might like to try them with yours.
1. Create an idiom booklet
Out of this situation, a new activity was born. We began a study on idioms and started to collect a list of expressions that we found in the books and in our daily conversations. Our goal was to come up with 100 since hundreds day was coming up soon. Needless to say, we could barely get a word out without someone saying "idiom". It was fun for the class, but it also had the potential to distract us from other things we were working on. We had to start making some guidelines to keep it in check.
Once we had our expressions, we decided to do some activities with them. We created a class idiom booklet and each person was given 4 or 5 idioms to illustrate for the booklet. This booklet was a favourite for free reading time and barely lasted throughout the year because of its popularity.
2. Use Idiom task cards for a center activity
I created some idiom task card games that we were able to play in small groups or as center activities. I used the theme of turning lemons into lemonade for these cards. You can check them out here.
The following year, I created another set of task cards. It is called Figurative Language Task Cards. You can check it out here.
3. Use Amelia Bedelia stories to study figurative language
The Amelia Bedelia series of books was very popular with all my students. Herman Parish, a nephew of Peggy Parish, continued her legacy with Amelia Bedelia and wrote some simple readers and some chapter books about Amelia's childhood. These books provided me with enough differentiated material on the same character for everyone in my class to read. We were able to study the characters, learn about idioms, and work on our reading skills at the same time.
4. Try out this activity for Good Work, Amelia Bedelia
When I retired, I continued to work with small reading groups at my school. I found that the Amelia Bedelia books were still a good fit for some of the guided reading groups I was working with. I created an activity to go along with the Good Work, Amelia Bedelia book to use here. If you would like to find out more or get your own copy, check it out here.
5. What does the idiom mean?
I have been thinking a lot about language lately, and I decided to create another idiom activity. It includes 39 different idioms with 10 of them that have two different images, so 49 pages in all. I have also created a small sampler of it that you can get here by clicking on the image.
So there you have a few ideas for using idioms in your classroom. I hope your students have as much fun as mine did. Don't forget to grab your free sampler of idioms here.
I would love to know more about how you use idioms in your classroom.
How many times have you seen a child flipping through pages during silent reading, but not really reading? They are not interested in reading or they find it so much work, that they avoid it and just pretend to do it. How do we motivate these reluctant readers?
Choose The Right Materials
It has often been said that kids that don't like reading just haven't found the right book yet. Although this could be true, it is not that simple. First, they need to feel that they are able to read in order to develop the love of reading. We need to find ways to support them in their reading journey.
There are many different strategies and tricks for helping kids learn to read. Developing a love for reading goes beyond this. If we want children to love reading, one way is to show them we love reading. Reading for enjoyment and for knowledge is different, but both can be inspiring if we are able to share this with others.
Read Stories Aloud
Reading stories to my class was a special time because I loved books and I was able to share my excitement about new books and characters with my students. Choosing a variety of material that had topics of interest that they could relate to was key. Using a series helped them to become connected with characters and they often wanted to know what was going to happen next. I would also stop at key spots so that I left them wanting more. This developed an anticipation and eagerness for the next time we visited to story.
Make Sure Material Is An Appropriate Level
During actual reading lessons, it is important to make sure that the material is at an appropriate level for the students, but it also has to be something that they are interested in. Nobody wants to read something just to practice a skill. Imagine having to read material you weren't interested in and having to work on activities that practiced a skill that you struggled with. This would be "WORK" and doing this every day would definitely not help you to love reading. High interest, low vocabulary material is helpful as a jumping off point here.
Try Reader's Theater
Reader's theater might be another way to get kids interested in reading. If they have specific roles to play, they can become more engaged in the reading. Sometimes, this may be multiple people having the same role so that they do choral reading as they are developing confidence with reading out loud. Gradually they could move towards doing the part by themselves. It can be fun to add different voices to the different characters too.
Have Familiar Books Available
Another trick I used was to leave books around the room that we had just finished reading or were in the process of reading. This made them available for those who were needing some motivation to read as they were already familiar with the books and could use their prior knowledge to help them with the more difficult vocabulary.
I would also circulate sometimes during the quiet reading times and do one on one conferencing with the books just to do an interest check and maybe help if needed.
Try Audio Versions
Listening to audio versions of a book while reading along, can also help. There are some programs out there that provide an audio version followed by reading the passage without the audio. Eventually the audio won't be necessary and as confidence grows, usually an interest in reading develops.
Not everyone will be a bookworm, but if we can help kids to enjoy reading even a bit, it is worthwhile.
For specific strategies for teaching reading, check out some of my other blog posts.
Themes And Games Make Learning Fun
Guided Reading In The Primary Classroom
Guided Reading Tips And Tricks
Also, watch for future posts about engaging reluctant writers and those who struggle with math.
Have you ever struggled with how to engage your reluctant learners in the classroom? They could be those kids who avoid reading unless put on the spot, the children who sit and stare at an empty page during writing time, or maybe even the ones who seem to be totally lost or uninterested during math.
With so many different personalities and learning styles in your classroom, it can sometimes seem overwhelming to try and meet all their needs, but there are some things that you can do that can help.
Differentiation Is Key
Early on in my teaching I realized that whole group teaching was only meeting the needs of some of my students. Not every child is at the same place in their learning at the same time. If we are following a scripted plan of instruction where everyone gets the same lesson at the same time with the same expectations for performance, there will definitely be some students that are lost and unable to succeed while others will be bored because they are already able to do the task at hand.
Differentiation is key for meeting the needs of more of your students, but it isn't the only thing necessary. I have found that it is important to also have a variety of ways for children to learn as people learn differently. Some learn through hearing, some by seeing, and others by touching and interacting physically with things. By creating a variety of means for learning concepts and skills, children are more likely to be engaged and consequently more likely to actually understand the concepts or skills presented.
Use Projects And Hands On Activities
If you have been following me at all, you will already know that I am a believer in using projects and manipulatives in my teaching. I also like to have multiple ways for kids to demonstrate their learning. This helps them to develop confidence as they can show what they know in a way that works for them. This doesn't mean that they never do reading and writing activities that are more traditional, just that this is not the only way to measure their ability or understanding.
Coming up with the ideas for the various subjects is often dictated by the students in the class and the class dynamics. If you have a wide range of abilities in the class, differentiation is necessary. Small group activities and some individualization will be key. If you have a very active class, management will be crucial as part of your instruction in order to have a productive learning environment. Hands on activities or movement activities will help children move from the concrete to the abstract as they are learning new concepts or skills.
Games Engage And Increase Learning
Using games for teaching has been extremely successful for my students throughout the years. They think they are playing games, but they are actually practising valuable skills that transfer into other areas. I still remember a few times after doing some math games and activities the kids asked me when we were going to start math. They didn't realize that they had been doing math the whole time because they were having fun with the activities. They kept expecting that math would be worksheets and drills.
I will elaborate more on this in another post.
Each group of students will require different means of motivation to get them engaged, but being open to trying new things and incorporating a mix of hands on, interactive, and differentiated materials and activities into your teaching will help to capture and encourage your reluctant learners to take chances and develop the confidence needed to keep trying. Sometimes it can be as simple as adding colored pens when doing writing activities or adding some moving around to an activity.
I hope these ideas help with your reluctant students. I will share more specific ideas and suggestions for different subjects in future posts. In the meantime, I would love to hear about some of the ways you help reluctant learners in your classroom. Feel free to share in the comments.
A few years ago, I was asked to reflect on my teaching and determine what my super strength was. I discovered that I actually have two things that I became known for during my teaching career. I am going to share one of them with you today. I will share the other one in a future post.
My first super strength was teaching guided reading programs in my classroom.
Many of my colleagues taught guided reading with the help of others, be it parent volunteers, educational assistants, or a rotation of teachers in a cohort. I have done all three during my career, but there were several times when there weren't enough people to cover all the classes/students, so I did my class separately. Sometimes I had as many as 7 groups depending on the range of reading levels in my class.
This was a challenge, but over the years I developed some strategies and resources that made it work. Today I would like to share some of this with you. Please note: I am basing this on a grade 2 or 3 classroom as most of my teaching career was with a grade 2/3 split class.
In a grade 1 class, there would be some variations as many of the children are still focusing on building phonemic awareness and letter recognition skills.
Before you begin, it is important to have an idea of what your students are able to do. It will require some assessment, be it formal or informal. Sometimes it may also take some time to develop a relationship with them so they feel comfortable sharing what they know. You can also look at assessments from previous years, although I usually choose to do my own assessments. It is also a good thing to remember that levels can drop a bit after a long break.
1.It is important to know what the reading levels are in your classroom. Obviously, this can be a time intensive task if you are doing formal levelling for your students. Instead, I select a variety of books from my levelled book bins and I do an informal assessment with the kids while others are working on some independent work.
2. Once I have had a chance to read with all my students, I look at the levels and see what are some possible groupings I can make. I will often group 2 or 3 levels together if they are similar. If the levels are very low, or the students need a lot of extra work with sounds, phonemic awareness, letter recognition, etc. I try to keep the groups very small (maximum 4). Other groups may have up to 6 in them. It is important that you think about the time available for instruction as well, because too many groups will not work well in a regular class time table.
The size of the groups is often dependent on resources as well. I found that most sets of books only had 6 copies, so to avoid sharing materials, 6 was usually the maximum size of the group.
3. Once the groups are determined, it is time to figure out a rotation plan that will work so that all of the groups can receive instruction and support during the week. Ideally, reading should be a part of each day, but sometimes this is not possible. Whenever you are able to do reading groups, the groups that are needing the most help should be scheduled in for direct support. The other groups should be on a rotation to make sure they are given some direct support as well. This is very important. The more capable groups need support as well.
While one group is getting direct instruction, it is important that the other groups know what they are to do. This could be reading, responding to reading, language activities, centers, listening activities or other language related activities.
4. Before starting the reading group sessions, it is necessary to make sure that you go over the expectations for groups that are working independently or in small group activities. Direct teaching of the different types of activities will be needed so that the groups can function well without disruptions and interruptions.
5. To make sure that the rotations work well and you are organized for each group requires some planning. Creating a flow chart or grid with the different groups and the different activities helps. It is also useful in case of a situation when you are away and someone else needs to run the groups.
6. Gathering the necessary materials and having them set up ahead of time will also make the rotations more successful. Setting up baskets with the materials for each guided reading group ensures that you aren't hunting for things during the direct instruction. Other areas also need to have the necessary equipment and materials ready before the reading time begins.
7. Once you have your groups set, your materials ready, and your rotations prepared, it is time to get started.
If you are looking for materials to use during your guided reading rotations, check out my TeachersPayTeachers store. I have a guided reading category, sight word category, and literacy category with materials that can work for reading groups.
I hope you find these tips helpful. If you are looking for more ideas or if you have any questions, feel free to contact me or leave a comment below. I wish you much success with your guided reading program.
As we start a new year, it is always fun to start checking out Groundhog Day activities. Children love to find out if the groundhog is going to predict an early spring or a longer winter. I have to admit, I find it fun to do as well.
Here are some math and literacy ideas to try with your students. There are also some fun posters included.
If you are looking for a fun writing activity, maybe one of these ideas might work.
Take a picture with shadows and one without and use the pictures to write a groundhog story.
Or, maybe you could pretend to be a groundhog and write about your day on February 2nd.
On the weekend it was a beautiful sunny day, so we went for a walk. While walking, I noticed the long shadows and I decided to take a picture. It immediately made me think of the groundhog coming out of his burrow. I imagine that if I was that groundhog and I saw this shadow I would run back inside and stay put. Strangely enough, the same evening as this picture was taken, we had a big storm. Maybe the groundhog had the right idea.
What are some fun Groundhog Day activities you do with your students? Let me know in the comments.
Here is a blog post I wrote a few years ago as a guest blog while I was still in the classroom. After I retired, I continued to volunteer in my school doing guided reading groups. I used these books with my groups and we also did some activities with the idiom cards that I created. It was almost as much fun as the first time we did this in my class.
Have you ever found an activity or unit that you try that just takes off on it's own path? I have many times. It always amazes me when an idea that starts out as a teachable moment or a small idea takes on a mind of its own and blossoms into a larger study.
Our current bloom is idioms. What started as an introduction to Amelia Bedelia for a couple of literal learners, has turned into a fantastic learning experience. It has become rich with language and writing opportunities. It has so engaged my students, that they are driving their families nuts by catching every idiom or figurative speech that is spoken. Sometimes I have to call for a time out so that we can actually focus on the topics being studied. Not that I mind, though. It is always rewarding to see the kids have fun with something that they are studying.
I teach a grade 2/3 class and I wanted to find some books that would capture their interest and be appropriate for reading groups. I scored with Amelia Bedelia. There are some I Can Read versions that are great for my struggling readers, some of the regular editions that are suitable for my stronger grade 2s and my weaker grade 3s, and now the new chapter books that work with my stronger readers.
Right now, everyone is reading about Amelia Bedelia. This is a first!
What I enjoy most about having the same characters, is that we can really look closely at them as we meet them in different stories. Everyone is familiar with Amelia Bedelia and Mr. and Mrs. Rogers.
Now they are meeting Amelia Bedelia's parents in the chapter books because they are stories about her when she was a little girl. They love making connections as they read about her adventures.
Herman Parish (nephew of Peggy Parish) has done a wonderful job with these books. He also has some new I Can Read books about Amelia Bedelia as a young child. They are sure to be a hit as well.
Resources for using idioms
I hope you enjoy sharing idioms and the adventures of Amelia Bedelia with your students as much I did. I would love to hear your stories as well.
I created this free activity to use with my students in my guided reading group. Click on the image to get your own copy.
As we are about to begin a new year, it is a great time for a fresh start. This year we have all had many challenges and we need to find some renewed energy and hope. Sometimes that can be a breather just to take time with family, or maybe it could be changing things up from the regular routine.
I don't know about others, but I found it difficult to get motivated lately. Even though it is supposed to be a festive season, most days seemed to be the same and it was hard to find moments of anticipation and joy. So many of the things we look forward to at this time of the year were missing due to the pandemic.
For many of my teaching friends, the challenges of teaching during a pandemic have been daunting and they are rapidly burning out and feeling overwhelmed. I hope that the holiday break has given them some time to relax and recharge so they will be refreshed for the start of the new year.
This next season will probably be a mix of online and in person teaching and learning as we continue to get through the pandemic.
Here are some ideas for starting out the new year. Hopefully these will bring some laughter and smiles to your day and give you some joy as you return to teaching.
Do a photo booth. If you are teaching in person, you could add some New Year's hats and blowers, fancy glasses, etc. Have your students create fun poses and take photos of them and then have them write about their goals.
If you are teaching online, you could create some interesting picture frames and then take screenshots of your students and add them to the frames. If they have some fancy accessories at home, perhaps these could be added to their images.
If you are looking for materials to help you through the winter season, here are some that might work for you.
Sight word games and activities, word work, parts of speech silly sentences and other literacy games can be fun when they have a winter theme.
Here are some literacy items in French in case you need them.
Here are some free products that might help.
New Year's Goal Setting Templates
3 Stars and a Wish
Snowy Days Compound Words
Winter Sports Task Card Templates
Goal setting for the New Year
Goal setting is not only good for children, it is also good for us as teachers.
Think of some things that you are proud of and things you would like to work on
(3 stars and a wish)
Come up with a goal for home, school, and something personal. This is the same format that can be used with your students.
If you are looking for some novel studies that are good for the winter season, try these.
Creative writing ideas
Start a statement and see how many crazy ideas you can come up with.
(This could be done orally first, and then developed into a written story.)
I was so frozen my fingers were like popsicles but they didn't taste as good.
I was so frozen .........
It was so cold ........
When I woke up I couldn't believe my eyes..........
If you are looking for some winter math ideas, you can find them here.
I hope you find these suggestions and resources helpful as you return to teaching in January.
Thank you for all you do for your students.
Learning sight words can be key to becoming a fluent reader. Games make learning these words more fun. The same words can be used in many different ways that engage children if games are played. There are many themes that can be used as visuals to complement the words as well.
Themed Sight Word Games
I love to use games to engage children in learning. They are excited to play and they reinforce language while doing so. There are many different activities that can be done with sets of sight words.
I have created many different themed sight word sets that focus on 220 high frequency sight words. These sets have been a favorite choice for language centers over the years. Here are a few examples.
Chinese New Year is a great theme for sight word games as each year it is new because the animal changes. This is a set of sight words for each of the animals of the Chinese zodiac. Both goat and sheep are included. These cards can also be used when studying animals or doing a unit on the farm as well.
These winter celebration games are great for Groundhog Day, Valentines Day, and Winter Sports. Bingo cards are also included that can be used with any of the themed sets. This allows for another level of game play.
We usually focus on the high frequency sight words, but there are also common nouns that are high frequency words as well. This is a spring themed set of these 95 nouns. It includes bingo cards as well.
For more themed sets, check out my TeachersPayTeachers store.
About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.